My friend Don Flowers has a blog called “Didn’t Make the Sermon.” I love the title, and I would guess that every other preacher does, too. We know there are plenty of things we think about putting into the sermon that we eventually leave out, often with good reason. And we all remember those times we left something in that should have been left out.
I went back and forth on this introduction to yesterday’s sermon, but eventually left it out, reasoning that it was more about last week’s sermon than this one. Still, there was something there that I liked–the idea of the church as a place of unconditional love and acceptance. So, I’ve rescued this intro from the cutting room floor and posted it here for what it’s worth:
We are still on the road with Jesus, walking with him on the way to Jerusalem, watching everything he does, listening to everything he says. Last week he was talking to the scribes and Pharisees about what you do when you lose something precious, like a sheep, or a coin, or a son. Jesus implied that you drop everything to look for it; you don’t stop looking for it until you find it; and when you find it you rejoice. It made me think about those who are wandering away from the fold of the church in America these days, and what we are doing about it. A lot of them are young people who simply don’t find church compelling any more. They’re not afraid they’ll go to hell when they die. They don’t know why they should show up and listen to someone tell them how to live. But some of them are leaving because they’re afraid that if we knew everything about them we wouldn’t want them to come. They don’t think of the church as a place of unconditional love and acceptance; they think of it as a place where people will judge them for who they are and how they live. It made me think we need to find a way to let them know that this place is not that kind of place, that we need to do a better job of seeking, finding, and rejoicing.
I wonder what would happen if we put a big sign on the front steps of the church that read: “This is a place of unconditional love and acceptance.” Would it bring in the wrong crowd? Or would it bring in the right one?
And who gets to decide which is which?